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Grass gains

Sampras, Hingis top seeds at Wimbledon; Rafter benefits

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Posted: Monday June 18, 2001 1:08 PM
Updated: Monday June 18, 2001 5:05 PM
  Pete Sampras Defending men's champion Pete Sampras has drawn the No. 1 seed for this year's tournament. AP

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Pete Sampras may have slipped to five in the world rankings, but he's still No. 1 at Wimbledon.

Organizers of the grass court championship which starts next week ignored the ATP rankings on Monday and named seven-time champion Sampras as the top-seeded player for the championships.

Fellow American Andre Agassi, who is second in the rankings, was seeded No. 2 and the list means that he and Sampras cannot meet until the final.

Australia's Patrick Rafter, last year's runner-up, is No. 3, despite a ranking of 10, with U.S. champion Marat Safin of Russia at No. 4. Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian who on Sunday won the grass-court tournament at Queen's Club, is No. 5.

For the first time in its 124-year history, Wimbledon will have 32 seeds instead of the usual 16.

Rising & Falling
Biggest winners and losers in seeding
Player  Rank  Seed  Diff. 
Vladimir Voltchkov  30  16  +14 
Nicolas Kiefer  29  19  +10 
Todd Martin  33  23  +10 
Patrick Rafter  10  +7 
Nicolas Escude  31  24  +7 
Juan Carlos Ferrero  -4 
Franco Squillari  24  28  -4 
Guillermo Coria  26  29  -3 
Dominik Hrbaty  20  22  -2 
Albert Portas  23  25  -2 

The organizers decided to double the number of seeds to try and pacify the clay court players who claim the seeding system is biased towards grass court players.

French Open runner-up Alex Corretja, who had threatened to boycott Wimbledon over the issue, pulled out of the championship citing a leg injury.

French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, ranked No. 1 in the world and another Wimbledon critic, withdrew last week citing a groin problem.

Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero is the only big name claycourter in the men's draw. He is seed No. 8, four places below his ranking.

Despite Wimbledon's policy of not sticking to the rankings, the ATP Players Council backed its decision to have 32 seedings.

"I think all the players are really, really pleased with the way things have worked out," said council chairman Jonas Bjorkman.

"I think it's the fairest way we can have it. Mandatory events like the Grand Slams really need to have 32 seeds."

"I think most of the players would have preferred to have it straight off the rankings," said Bjorkman, who just missed out on a seeding by one place. "But this is the best we can get it at the moment."

One player who benefited from the withdrawals is Todd Martin, who was 33 in the rankings and moved into the 32 seeds. Having reached two Wimbledon semifinals in 1994 and '96, Wimbledon moved him up to 23 in the seedings list.

Among the players outside the list of 32 seeds who could cause major upsets in the early rounds are big serving Greg Rusedski of Britain and Wayne Arthurs of Australia and 18-year-old American star Andy Roddick.

They could be the players to avoid in the draw which is made at the All England Club on Tuesday.

In the women's field, Martina Hingis is seeded No. 1, followed by defending champion Venus Williams.

Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion and losing finalist last year, is seeded No. 3. Jennifer Capriati, who is halfway to a Grand Slam sweep after winning the Australian and French Opens, is No. 4.

But Anna Kournikova became the latest women's withdrawal Monday, the victim of a stress fracture of the foot which has kept her out of action since the end of February.

The draw for the men's and women's tournaments will be held Tuesday.

All four Grand Slam tournaments announced last week that they were doubling the number of seeded players to 32, with the order in the men's field determined by a formula that assesses past performance on each event's playing surface.

The new system ensures that the top 32 players in the ATP and WTA women's rankings will be seeded. In the past, the Wimbledon committee adjusted seedings subjectively based on past performances on grass.

Organizers of the only grass court Grand Slam event maintain their support of the players who do well on their fast courts, most notably Sampras.

Sampras hasn't won a tournament since winning Wimbledon last summer for the seventh time in eight years. He lost to Hewitt in the semifinals at Queen's Club on Sunday.

Hewitt beat Britain's Tim Henman in the Queen's final. They are likely to be two of Sampras' main rivals this year. Two other top grass-courters, 1996 champion Richard Krajicek and three-time quarterfinalist Mark Philippoussis, have withdrawn with injuries.

Apart from Kournikova, other big names missing from the women's draw are Monica Seles, who also missed the French Open because of a recurring foot injury, and former French Open champion Mary Pierce with a back problem.

Although Capriati withdrew from this week's grass court tournament in the Netherlands, citing fatigue, she is expected to play at Wimbledon.

Davenport is playing in the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne after being sidelined since the end of March with a knee injury and will be in action on Wednesday.

Related information
Grand Slam tennis events to include 32 seeds
SI's Jon Wertheim: New seeding will help Sampras
CNNSI.com's Baddoo: Seeding compromise makes sense
Wimbledon organizers ready for tough seeding task
Wimbledon seeds
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